Part three of the series ... I started with national monuments in Vientiane, continued with an artistically and historically significant wat in Luang Prabang. But how and where do ordinary people worship? This set shows two local wats in a smallish country town. They are well supported by the local community but don't have the resources of the temples in my earlier photos.
I was a bit surprised to find a spirit house in the grounds of one of them because I expected a bigger separation between Buddhism and animism, at least in the temples.
Most temples I saw in Laos, and many in Northern Thailand, have a group of seven or eight Buddha statues as in my second photo here. Each is in a different pose, and each pose is associated with a particular day of the week. I don't know where the tradition comes from.
These two temples both had many murals depicting episodes from the Buddha's life and teachings. They obviously continue a tradition which began centuries ago and are a way of teaching lay people the stories. These two temples, however, have been built (or rebuilt and redecorated) quite recently (probably as anti-Buddhist policies of the Lao government relaxed in the 1980s and beyond) and the artwork is quite crude and garish to my eyes. Both temples were open on three sides and these murals were on the walls either side of the main altar.
The last two photos in the set show local people at the wat for full-moon day observances. There were far too many people to sit inside so they sat on mats on the ground around the front of the temple. Most of them were there for the whole morning, listening to the monks' chanting and dhamma talks, and giving food to the monks. The atmosphere was lovely - happy, relaxed and calm - and I didn't like to interrupt by playing tourist with my camera. They told me I was welcome to take pictures but I still tried to keep out of the way while doing so.
I spoke to a novice at one of the wats and he told me that there were four monks and seven novices at his temple. He either didn't know how many there were at the other three temples in town, or his English wasn't good enough to tell me. (I'm not blaming him, of course - his English was far
better than my Lao!!)